The 'review' of brain symbols

Below if the full text of the 'review' I got about brain symbols, and here is the email message I sent to the editor.

related texts


The author is not recommended to seek publication of this paper: it can only damage his reputation.

The paper describes the characteristics of 'symbol systems' from such sources a Newell's book on SOAR; it gives an account of neurons as culled from text-books, stressing their stochastic nature. Its key argument is as follows (from P. 8):

'Since it must be possible to store symbol tokens in arbitrary structures during computation (in other words, they are dynamic), they cannot be implemented by static features. This means that symbol tokens cannot be implemented by patterns of neurons and the connections between them.' There is a logical gulf between the first proposition and the second proposition. We are not told why if symbol tokens must be dynamic, they cannot be implemented by patterns of neurons.

The paper is poorly written, and contains many grammatical mistakes and slips of the pen.

My best advice to the author is to discuss his ideas with a colleague who knows about neurons, symbols and the theory of computability. There is currently much work that models the properties of real neurons computationally. And indeed computers can readily model stochastic and non-deterministic systems. Finally, whatever may be meant by a 'symbol', surely written communications are symbolic? And surely writing and reading depend on brain mechanisms? So, why does the author write papers postulating that the brain cannot implement symbol system? He may as well write papers -- as do deconstructionists -- postulating that written communication is impossible